“New Reporting System to Take Effect 1 January 1981,” Ensign, Jan. 1981, 76–77
A new streamlined Church unit statistical reporting system goes into effect this month.
The need for a new reporting system grew out of studies showing that, for various reasons, the old reporting system duplicated efforts, was overly complex, and in some areas provided unnecessary or inaccurate information. Under the new system, the report has been reduced by two-thirds, but the essential information has been maintained, and in certain areas new and better information will now be available.
What are some of the changes? Activity reports will be submitted quarterly rather than monthly. Sunday School attendance will be reported only by the Sunday School. Only priesthood meeting attendance for men and boys, Relief Society attendance for women, and Young Women attendance for girls will be reported. The quorums and organizations will not report sacrament meeting attendance. No yearly activity records will be required. A special form will be used for recording home teaching and visiting teaching. An Action Report will focus on the needs of families and individuals, and “critical events” (such as convert baptisms, priesthood ordinations, the number of missionaries set apart, and temple marriages) will be used as indicators of over-all activity.
Each item on the new reports had to pass three tests: What information is vital and essential to Church administration? Can the information be gathered in an accurate and reliable way? And what can be done to more efficiently produce the necessary information?
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy explains that with the program comes a distinctive “philosophy of reports and administration. … [The report is] a management tool where use requires a certain amount of skill and judgement. …
“Leaders should realize that reports are not a device to put pressure on people. They are instead a source of information to help leaders better understand what is happening, make better plans to achieve important objectives, and make better informed decisions. … Reporting is primarily an administrative matter, not a clerical exercise.”
Recognizing that some leaders may feel that they do not have enough information to act properly during this transition period, he added, “We want to discourage bishops and stake presidents from generating additional or more frequent statistical reports. … Statistics are not the only way to understand what is going on. Meetings, interviews, and personal observation help to round out our information supply, and the Spirit can help us better discern the meaning in what we see.”
In the fifty stakes where this reporting system was piloted for two years, several questions seemed to come up more frequently than others. Here is a sampling:
1. Will there be a tendency for stakes and wards to slack off in their performance if leaders do not receive a report more than quarterly? No. If there is a decrease in performance, it is probably due to something other than reporting frequency. There were no activity differences between stakes reporting monthly and those reporting quarterly. The information provided from statistical records and reports should be used as tools to establish goals and lead others in efforts to accomplish those goals. When leaders use information to pressure or control others, they are using the records and reports improperly.
2. There is some information—like home teaching—that I need monthly. How can I obtain this information when I only receive a quarterly report? Home teaching information is available from priesthood quorums as frequently as needed. This information can also be requested in personal priesthood interviews and other appropriate meetings where the names of individuals are discussed.
3. I have been used to getting fast offering information, convert baptism information, and information on single members, but these items are not on the new reports. How can I get it? This information, though not included on the activity reports, is still available from other sources. Fast-offering information is found on the ward/branch monthly financial report. Convert baptism information is available from the ward ordinance and action record and from the annual ward/branch and stake/district ordinance and action statistical reports. Information concerning the number of single members is found on the annual ward/branch and stake/district membership statistical reports.
4. Why are family home evening statistics not contained in the new reports? Most bishops and stake presidents report that family home evening statistics are usually inaccurate and unreliable. Leaders are encouraged to use personal priesthood interviews and other appropriate avenues to determine the way families and individuals participate in family home evening in their homes.
5. What are some of the new items of information contained in the new statistical records? The number of temple recommend holders is on the ward/branch and stake/district activity reports. The number of single and married adults and the priesthood and missionary status of males 19–21 is on the ward/branch and stake/district membership statistical reports.
6. Why are we no longer keeping track of individual sacrament meeting attendance in the reporting system? The attendance of members at priesthood, Young Women, Relief Society, and Primary meetings compares closely with their attendance at sacrament meeting. It was therefore determined that keeping track of individual sacrament meeting attendance was unnecessary. Of course, sacrament meeting attendance is very important, but leaders can gain an accurate idea of sacrament meeting attendance by looking at attendance statistics from these other meetings.
7. Since attendance is recorded only at specific meetings, how will youth leaders administer their awards program? The requirements for youth award programs are still the same; however, leaders will ask the youth themselves whether they fulfilled their attendance requirements.